Several centuries ago a beautiful young woman from a wealthy family was sent away to a boarding school; soon afterwards, she wrote home, asking her mother to send her a looking glass. Knowing her daughter was somewhat vain, the mother—a devout Catholic—wrote back, saying, “I am sending you a parcel containing three mirrors. The first will show you to yourself as you are; the second will show you what you will be; the third will show you what you ought to be.” When the package arrived, the girl opened it with great curiosity, and took out first of all an ordinary looking glass, which perfectly reflected back her image when she looked at it. Then, to her surprise, there was a skull, which she set aside with a shudder. The final item was a beautiful small statue of Our Lady. In reflecting on this unusual combination of items, the young woman realized what her mother was telling her: her present physical beauty would eventually fade away in the tomb, but if she tried to imitate the example of Mary, the beauty of her soul would exist forever (Rev. Francis Spirago, Anecdotes and Examples for the Catechism, p. 10). This is an important reminder for us today: trying to imitate the virtues of Our Lady is the best possible thing we can do for ourselves in this coming year.
The readings for the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God speak of God’s desire to bless us. This message is given quite directly in the 1st Reading from Numbers (6:22-27), in which the Lord instructs Moses and Aaron to pronounce a blessing over the people and in the 2nd Reading from Galatians (4:4-7), where St. Paul reminds us that, through the coming of Jesus, we have received the great blessing of becoming God’s adopted children. However, these blessings are wasted unless our hearts are open to them—and in the Gospel of Luke (2:16-21), we see a practical illustration of what such openness means. We’re told that Our Lady reflected in her heart on all that happened—for only this sort of openness, humility, and trust allows virtue to take root in our hearts and God’s grace to be at work within us.
It’s estimated that 150,000 people around the world die each day; this means that in this new year of 20–, over 50 million human beings will leave this world and be judged by God—possibly including some of us. Even if we are not to die in this calendar year, its passage will bring us that much closer to our own day of judgment. The best way to prepare ourselves for this inevitable and all-important moment is to follow Jesus as our Lord, ever more closely—and the best way to come closer to Him is to imitate the love and kindness and holiness of His Mother. She is our inspiration; she is our example; she is our intercessor—and the more we honor her, the more we please her Son, and the more we become capable of following Him. Worldly beauty passes away; the beauty of Heaven lasts forever—and Our Lady stands ever ready to help us in our efforts and our desire to be remade in the image of her Son.